I looked forward to this year’s Winter party at my job. We have two company parties a year, they’re always fun, and I always leave earlier than everyone else as I have a long commute home with few travel options. This time, I got a hotel room in the city so that I wouldn’t have to bail out early. Usually, the party is in December, but for some reason was in January this time. In the middle of my annual Dry January. I figured I’d earned an exception and enjoyed a few beers during the day.

I had a great time… until I didn’t. After one taco at dinner, I began feeling nauseous. I didn’t want to leave, but it was hard to concentrate on anything. Despite being in a public venue, I seriously considered pulling the trigger – puking on purpose – except the few bathroom stalls were barely large enough to fit a toilet. I did my best to push on anyway, managing a game of Dutch Curling, but when ping-pong was next on the agenda I knew it was time to leave. Fortunately, my hotel room was a ten-minute walk away, where I promptly and violently threw up and then fell asleep.

Naturally, when I left the party, I didn’t say goodbye to anyone. This, apparently, is my way of leaving every event these days. An Irish Exit.

This method of bailing on a party has many names. I’d always known it as a French Exit, but my kid says it’s Irish Exit, and who am I to argue with young people. Besides, she says it’s more appropriate as I’m Irish. Okay, not biologically but I identify as Irish and how dare you question my truth.

(Sigh. The whole “I identify as…” bit is hack and I hereby vow to not use it again.)

I wouldn’t say I was particularly social prior to covid, but I was quite the butterfly compared to my current status. At parties, there’s usually two guys in a corner, locked in conversation, too busy trying to save the world than have fun with everyone else. I was always one of those guys. At mingles – shudder – I never worked the room, I’d stand in one place and talk to whomever came near. Instead of social butterfly, a social Venus Fly Trap. I was rarely last man standing, but never in a hurry to leave.

These days, I’m below the radar and prefer to stay there. You know how Norm would walk into Cheers, say, “Hello, everybody,” and the whole bar would go, “Norm!”? I’m about as far from that as one could be. This isn’t a pity party or me beating myself up, it just is how it is. I like me. But I’m not Mr. Charisma, I don’t take up space, I’m not larger than life. Which is odd to Swedes as they expect that of me as an American.

Instead of lighting up a room, I’m much more likely to scare the shit out of someone when they turn around and find me standing there, as if I’d appeared from nowhere. If social ninjitsu was a thing, I’d be a third-degree black belt. At parties and even standup clubs, I have fun until I don’t, which is usually a sudden vibe, and then I just want to leave as quickly and as quietly as possible. I feel invisible to others so I make myself more so, making it self-fulfilling. Not standing out has led to many missed opportunities, social and otherwise.

All that said, I do feel like I’m in a better place than I was even a year ago, and that things will continue to improve. I told another comic recently that I still feel like I’m coming back into the world. Going into exile and then the pandemic hitting, there was a long period of time when just going anywhere other than the gym was physically and mentally exhausting. My motivation may be low but at least it exists, which is saying something.